The most widely anticipated pregnancy since Princess Diana’s in 1981 is official: Prince William’s wife, Kate, is pregnant.
St. James’s Palace announced the pregnancy Monday, saying that the Duchess of Cambridge — formerly known as Kate Middleton — has a severe form of morning sickness and is in a London hospital. William is at his wife’s side.
News of the pregnancy drew congratulations from across the world, with the hashtag “royalbaby” trending globally on Twitter.
The couple’s first child will be third in line to take the throne — leapfrogging the gregarious Prince Harry and possibly setting up the first scenario in which a U.K. female heir could benefit from new gender rules about succession.
The palace would not say how far along the 30-year-old duchess is, only that she has not yet reached the 12-week mark. Palace officials said the duchess was hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, a potentially dangerous type of morning sickness in which vomiting is so severe, no food or liquid can be kept down. They said she was expected to remain hospitalized for several days and would require a period of rest afterward.
“The best advice for anyone suffering from [severe morning sickness] is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid,” Dr. Daghni Rajasingam, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said in a statement. “The condition usually subsides by week 12 of the pregnancy, and with early diagnosis and treatment, there is no reason why we shouldn’t expect a healthy pregnancy.”
The condition is thought to affect about 1 in 200 pregnant women, according to Britain’s health department.
Until Monday’s announcement, the duchess had shown no signs of being with child. She was photographed just last week bounding across a field clad in black high-heeled boots as she played field hockey with students at her former school.
Still, speculation has swirled about when she and William would start a family from almost the moment they were wed April 29, 2011, in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
The attractive young couple is immensely popular — with William’s easy common touch reminding many of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales — and their child is expected to play an important role in British national life for decades to come.
For months, Kate’s every move has been scrutinized for clues about a possible pregnancy — from each time she touched her stomach to whether her outfit choices hinted at a baby bump.
In September, tongues wagged over why she might be avoiding alcohol when the duchess opted to toast with a glass of ice water instead of champagne during a banquet in Singapore.
Last week, the rumor mill kicked into high gear when a beaming William accepted a baby outfit from a well-wisher that bore the phrase, “Daddy’s little co-pilot.”
“I’ll keep that,” he reportedly said.
The confirmation of Kate’s pregnancy caps a jam-packed year of highs and lows for the young royals, who were married in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey last year.
They have traveled the world extensively as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and weathered the embarrassment of a nude-photos scandal, after a tabloid published topless images of the duchess.
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said the news bookended a year that saw the royal family riding high in popular esteem after celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.
“We’re riding on a royal high at the moment at the end of the Diamond Jubilee year,” he said. “People enjoyed the royal romance last year, and now there’s this. It’s just a good-news story amid all the doom and gloom.”
In the chilly night air at London’s Camden market, concertgoers and shoppers seemed surprised by the news — though all agreed that it had been widely anticipated.
“It feels a lot like a Christmas present for the nation,” said Ravian Van Den Hil, a Dutch student studying in London. “It makes me feel quite happy.”
Others wondered why Britain continues to spend so much to support the royal family. “I don’t think it’s a good thing,” said Stephen Jowitt as he strolled down Camden High Street. “It reinforces a class system.”
The palace said the royal family was “delighted” by the news.
British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged he got a heads-up about the pregnancy, saying he found the news “quite difficult” to keep to himself and expressing confidence the young couple will make “absolutely brilliant parents.”